tv Washington This Week CSPAN December 9, 2012 6:00am-7:00am EST
position where they can help answer questions or is it really more of what we saw in the bush administration with their job was being a brick wall and stopping everything? >> generally speaking, they are informed about the issues they are talking to reporters about. they can provide information -- as will horrify everyone on this panel -- but they have some degree of context about what they are speaking about. and on the record comments can give you some background. my experience with the bush administration was the people on the front line did not have that information. he would not get a statement or it would be two sentences myriad they did not know anything more
about the policy. that is an improvement in the eyes of most reporters. if you are asking whether the press office or press secretary acted as an advocate on behalf of reporters in terms of access to be president and meetings taking place at the white house, that has not been my experience in this administration. >> the second half of that question was regarding access to wires. we had seen in previous administrations would be a mystery she would come up with a policy and be excited about it. when you talk to people at the front lines, they have no idea there has been in changing with the are supposed to do. is there a communications gap? do the people have the information they do not care chimbote you have a sense of what is happening? >> the great -- do you have a sense of what is happening?
>> people have enough swatge to reach -- swathe to reach down into the a magician and make things happen. -- the administration and make things happen. that is usually the feedback that produces positive change. the loop seems to have broken down in the last 24 or 30 months. some of the they have just been a lack of focus of the mensuration and the first 18 months. some of it may have been an acute -- lack of focus in the
administration in the first 18 months. with the president having another four years, there is no reason for him to be concerned about the complaints or things not one right with be a administration. >> we have seen the cto creating things like the spending-port where you can see -- like the spending dashboard where you can see how much is being spent. you can actually understand what is going on. this is being touted by current and former administration folks as a way to promote the kind of accountability that josh was
talking about. are there more things along those lines that should be happening where are the witnesses -- where are the weaknesses to measuring how the government is doing in terms of being transparent? >> i agree that the strides being made in electronic folia - foia publication should go faster. the question i get all the time is why hasn't the white house engaged with congress on legislation to make federal spending more transparent. they have been -- the co mpttroller of the united states, the tech industry, and 23 open government groups saying we need legislation because
federal spending data is not as trends. as it needs to be. information and should be published is not being published. why has the white house sent a deputy treasury secretary to capitol hill to testify against the legislation? the answer lies in the fact that making valuable data published in standardized always requires engagement with a substantive policy area. the opposition to be data at in the white house is being driven by the office of federal management. it is not that office's job to make sure things are published. i do not believe the white house leaders' working on open government data oppose what we -- white house leaders working on open government data oppose
what the legislation does. those whose job is to do the work of three day -- that is the disagreements that have to play out. there is the same dynamic in other areas where it wants to see data published. >> building awful that a little bits, we are -- building off of that a little bit, we are placing responsibility with the administration. a key piece seems to be with congress. they have an oversight role to make sure these initiatives are functioning and seen through. is congress playing the appropriate role to make sure these things happen or is some other dynamic emerging? maybe i will start with josh,
if you do not mind. >> there have been some members of congress who have shown some interest in issues of transparency. they have never done it because they thought it was a good political issue. we occasionally see opportunists who may show up and are in favor upfoi -- in favor of foia because it is in their political interests. negotiations with the white house should be more transparency and they are. if someone on the hill strenuously insists that something is done publicly, the white house would not want to be seen as less transparent and the
hill. they would probably reversed themselves. there is always more the people on the hill can do to be transparent. we frequently have these things brought up. why don't you ask members of congress why their meetings are not put on a public list or why they are this as are not put on a public list? that is a fair enough points. few of them campaigned on the notion that they would be dramatically more transparent than be president. >> anne? >> one of the things that makes congress often not a hospitable place is how politicize things become. they become political footballs. to some extent, i cannot blame the administration for wanting to stay away from that forum. i agree with josh.
we are talking about conspiracy in the administration. if we were talking about transparency in congress, i would have a far bleaker picture to pension than with the administration. it is appointment with me is that i -- i would have a far bleaker picture than with the administration. leahy and cornyn have been steadfast and a kiss for -- advocates for foia. congress has not been in favor of legislative changes to the foia. the white house has an uneasy
relationship with the department of justice. based on the experience of the last administration with the criticism was they were controlling the department of justice, this administration is trying to portray itself as hands off. congress can do more, but the administration can do more in terms of opposing legislation. >> for those interested in legislative transparency, the previous panel was on that topic. you can try to find a video at transparency.org. is congress playing its role the way it needs to? >> in the open data perspective, what is congress doing and what should it do? e governor's practice for publishing information is like plumbing -- the government's practice for publishing information is like plumbing.
no one should have to think about that. congress does not always pay attention as to whether an regulatory agency is collecting paper or pd. f. at this point, information that is public is not being published in a way that makes its machine- readable. congress needs to take care of that point. in some areas, congress has stepped up. there are members of the oversight committee who joined together despite disagree on many issues, they joined together to get the data at passed through the house. senator mark warner and a republican joined together a few
months ago to configure b data act on the senate side. the-configure -- configures the data act on the senate side. they will be counting down doors on the hill in the 113th congress to get that leadership. >> that is the question. the plumbing is stopped up, to extend your metaphor. who do we need to call in to unstop it? i will change metaphors. looking into the crystal ball, what is likely to happen over the next two ha 4 four years to make these things move --
happening -- what is likely to happen in the next two or four here's to make these things move forward -- years to make these things move forward. >> we need new legislation. this is an administration talking the talk about transparency and openness. it came after administration that was open about its secrecy. these issues the too important to our democracy to leave up to that. we need legislation that institutionalizes the foreseeable harm standard in the foia so that the public interest it weighed against the re-gets weighed against - gets
-- interests get weighed against governmental interests. few legislations have gotten out of this congress. it has been a polarize congress. maybe they will find a way to work together. if they do, that will be an avenue that a lot of us will try to pursue. as far as the administration, we need to continue to advocate for and effective foia person. some agencies are making great progress. others are not. there needs to be leadership. it means to be a leader involved in the implementation. >> before you finish up, one of
the things that were mentioned in the 2008 was a tense around lobbying reform. i have a copy of it here. future employers, make white house communications public. a lot of things that have to do with promulgating information about registering lobbyists. there seems to be significant agreement that there are a lot of folks who engage in lobbying why not captive by the current regulations -- captured by the current regulations that exist. people on the left and the riots, but across the spectrum. -- people on the left and the right and across the spectrum.
the demonstration on its own decided to expand the way it was tracking this information. >> there was massive under compliance. that is the problem. you can have a great policy. >> we are talking about looking into the crystal ball and unstopping the plumbing. is their constructive attention for this in the next year or two? >> absolutely. disclosure and transparency are seeking. this is not your question, but i make a paste toward transparency -- i make a pitch toward transparency with money and politics. there seems to be a lost steam
on that. -- theme that. >> people talk about campaign finance and lobbying reform has been two unique things. in many respects, it is about how people influence the political system in ways that they represent the population. sometimes it is disproportionate influence. what members of congress to you get dealt? >> we have not even mentioned earmarking. supposedly, there is a moratorium. but it has gone underground. instead of more transparency, we have less. >> unto the bush administration, -- under in the
bush administration, there was in regulation that every time congress communicated with how much money would be spent, the administration folks were supposed to disclose that. that rule was still on the books. there is no disclosure that goes on the administration's side of that. you do not hear congress say we are going to voluntarily disclose information on the communications we have with the administration about money. it is not solving new problems, but making the new -- the old solutions work better. >> in some ways, transparency is the lowest common denominator and should be one of the easiest things to achieve. but it has been out of our reach for a long time. >> working through the crystal
ball and putting on your plumber hats -- >> there is a fundamental contradiction here where ostp is running hackatons. they have to be in favor of open data or against open data. in the other areas where we believe the government should be publishing and standardizing more of its data for democracy and business models, there is not as clear a contradiction. the resolution of this contradiction in the spending area will help along with the other areas. >> josh, a mixed metaphor question please. ha >> i am not optimistic that
in a second -- >> i am not optimistic that in a second term the press will make the white house pay attention to things they lost attention of in the first term. i think there are limited areas where the technology and the process of institutionalizing some of these practices can drive the train, to mix metaphors. as we discussed before, once you have white house logs coming out on a regular basis, it is hard not to seek proposals about standardizing the handling of foia request across agencies. we should put on line all foia requests. in this era of big data and big
storage, i cannot see any reason why this cannot be done fairly cheaply. it has not happened. maybe some of those and that is happening on a small scale can build up some -- maybe some of those advances happening on a small-scale can build up some momentum. those of the small scale advances that i think are plausible to see happening in becoming four years. >> in the united kingdom, they have a functioning version of the foia model called what do they know? it is fascinating how they are able to make this information available in ways we are working toward now. we are going to open up to questions from the audience. before we do so, there is one person i'd like to recognize who has a comment she would like to make.
we are getting the microphone ready. something for the panel to think about in the back of their heads is where is the most innovative work being done currently in the administration or elsewhere? with that, are we ready with the mobile link? sitting in the front row in the floral dress. if you could introduce yourself. >> i am an attorney. i am probably the most active requester in our organization. looking ahead and looking back, i would urge people to not read gauge -- not engaged in revisionist history. our experience with the white house is quite different. i am not sure if i understand.
maybe norm eisen was your boss. when we sued for those records, they were not voluntarily disclosed. we were asked to characterize it as a voluntary disclosure and not proceed to disclosure by compulsory action in court. we did not agree and we did not agree to go that route. the champion of transparency attempted to have a back door meeting with us so that it could go forward that they were really transparent. if you are the boss and you move out and you know that this guy is doing that, why would you replace him? he may have left for some reason. but you replace him with someone
who is equally transparent or better. the president has choices about who he places in what jobs, if i want to make sure something does not get fixed, i will hire someone who does not fix it. there is a lot more to be set. there was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm with obama's promises. i have a lot of hope in the courts. they are patient with the obama administration obstructionist cetitude -- and their patient with the obama administration obstructionist attitude has worn thin. >> norm eisen never my boss. just for those of you who do not know, we have been talking about
the white house visitor logging. there is ongoing the vacation now over their status. the position of the white house remains these are the with-there is ongoing litigation over their status -- there is ongoing litigation over their status. the position of the white house remains that they are presidential records. it will be difficult for another president coming in to take them off line. the legal issue underlying it is important. i am hopeful that you win your lawsuits. i wanted to add that. >> it is better to have a firm
like to stand upon if you are challenging the administration rather than rely on them saying, we will give you these records. >> a warhead lawyer -- our head lawyer says the courts are the best place to be right now. waiting for congress is like waiting for godot. when you get in court, the court has to rule. those rules are not optional for an administration. at the end of the day, it is more effective to be in a forum to make change. >> it is important to mention that congress has the ability to compel access to documents, to hold officials accountable, to use its power of the purse to engage in its proper role as a
co-equal partner in government. we see an erosion of congress as a capable branch of government. it is not good when you have someone with five years of experience making a lot of money trying to oversee an agency with someone less than their 30 years and has good expertise. -- when someone who has been there 30 years and has good expertise. someone in the front row? >> good morning. i appreciate the panel touching a lot of animals and topics.
-- touching a lot of topics. how can obama change anything when he always goes out of the country and on the road for political campaigns? those people will be the supporters and bring the money in and try to get the money out. the general population has a complaint and they can be heard. if they have a petition, they will be obstructed. there is someone response to go -- response of all -- res
ponsible for exceed this. you have good legislation, but there is no real implementation. you can get information or any records, but what you get is a paper with no information. it is not readable. >> let me put your question to my panel. >> my question is, you can have a complaint and with a complaint data, -- data, you can analyze. >> i am hearing a couple of complaints. concern about those who have access to the president and those around him. what is the role of special
interests in blocking policy initiatives because of their control or influence over the administration? do we see that there are special interests that are active in trying to prevent the type of transparency we are talking about? >> hudson? >> the need for the government to publish and standardize its data, there is not an opposition so much as there is in difference. it is a matter of changing practices and changing lines, sometimes gradually. the president's mention the basic -- it is a matter of changing practices and changing minds, times gradually. -- sometimes gradually.
there is a current spending transparency website. this president's basic principles for spending transparency is for the information to be published and to be machine readable. it would be natural for the administration to engage with congress on the data at. >> there is a questionnaire all the way in the back. i am trying to give alicia a workout. >> my name is denis mcdonough. i am and information consultants -- my name is dennis mcdonald. hooves responsibility is it for paying for transparency --
whose responsibility is it for paying for transparency? there is an addition of costs for what individual agencies do. in these days of restricted budgets, i would think there is going to be significant conflict between systems for improving transparency and not expending money on systems for improving transparency. >> i think that is exactly right. that is a big problem. one directive we have not mentioned that came out this year from the president and the white house has to do with a directive for agencies to get all of their electronic records. it takes money. these directives do not have any
money that goes with them. congress does not want to give them any money. i do not think it is realistic to think there is any money coming in the short term and potentially the long term. you need to rearrange your priorities. this is a problem. it is also a problem how we work on our budget cycles. you are talking about longer- term investments that will yield results long term. agencies often are not allowed to think that way in terms of their budget. this is the big elephant in the room. it is probably one of the biggest impediments we all face in terms of having a more transparent government. where is the money going to come from? >> still not sure that each and every instance the changes people want to see happen are terribly expensive. my experience with being -- with
the foia process is that it is exceedingly inefficient and constipated. it is routine for the government to reprocess documents over and over again, sometimes in a good way and sometimes not. i would think that a sensibly organized program to standardized process the best processing across agencies could yield some efficient -- to standardize the process across agencies could yield some efficiency and allow them to do what they do in a way that would be more effective. changing any new system in this day and age means buying some new information technology. something like putting up all fooia requests on a website --
foia on a website. it costs less than it has in the past. >> we have seen a couple of different aspects of this as well. because of the website is $4 million a year for the last couple -- the cost of the website is $4 million a year for the last couple of years. when you look at the savings for consolidation and the ability to a identify sales programs, it is a figure of a couple billion dollars. is that a real number? i do not know the answer. even if it is close in thin them -- close in an order of magnitude, there are still
significant savings to be had. there could be people working together for dozens of years and never shared the data they have. this is not to say they do these things is not expensive. we do not necessarily know how much they are because of the way government functions. having that kind of perspective is helpful. it is helpful for serving the public and serving those inside government. there is a separate peace -- piece. is a fundamental principle of democracy the people need to understand what their government is doing. some of these things may not save money by implementing them, but there is a need to have that information. making information about drones
strikes available -- it is tricky. making information about how the government functions. it can be more difficult when you bring more people into the room. as long as the nature of our government is the way it is, information sharing is something that needs to take place. >> you said it better than i would have. regulatory reporting is a great example of the wasteful duplication you just mentioned. a majority of the data elements that are reported today are already separately been reported to the securities and exchange commission. those two agencies have entirely different disclosure regimes. some countries are much farther along than we are. a still there, the netherlands, belgium, and the u.k. have achieved a measure of standardized regulatory reporting that allows them to
consolidate reporting requirements, which saves money for the agencies and saves money for the companies that have to make the filings. that is the best example of what policy makers should be doing, focusing on open data innovations that will save money. >> the foia module was extremely cost effective to develop. it only costs $1 million or $2 million. i think that is an example of how innovation does not have to cost a lot of money. >> the gentleman in the front. i am dan in the huffington post. the experience of the
transparency community has been much like other progressive groups, excited, high hopes for the obama administration. i wrote a piece called the wiki house and how the obama administration could open the windows. none of this happens. the goals were not, by any objective notion, reached. from the press secretary coming in on day one trying to fend questions rather than address them and help explain what is going on. good data is still inaccessible. there are some friendly feelings toward these folks. norm eisen great guy.
talking about obama having learned from the thirst four years and no longer negotiating. -- from the first four years and no longer negotiating. the crumbs are not enough anymore. are you guys going to go for more crumbs? >> all of these folks on this panel represent the progressive community. we can open up. >> i cannot speak on behalf of the progressive community. i cannot speak on behalf of the press corps. i can speak on behalf of myself. i do not do what you do if you are pests off. you can write about these things and -- i do not know what you do if you are pissed off. i am not optimistic about the
next four years. the primary lever is reelection. the reelection leverage point proved to be not terribly effective. keeping the administration moving toward some of this goes on transport and -- transparency is why i am not optimistic about a week yourself tools. there is a lot of frustration on the part of the -- that is why i am not optimistic about a weaker sets of tools. there is a lot of doubt among reporters that they will see any forward progress. you have a president who clearly enjoys having his interactions with the press corps take place in a certain way, which is primarily through sit-down interviews with reporters and
not through a daily exchange with reporters at the white house. i see no reason to think he will suddenly change his stripes in a second term. from a report to your's perspective, i am not sure what we can do to insist upon it other than to point out when the administration is falling short the with dish -- from a reporter's perspective, i do not know what we can do other than point out when the administration is falling short. they said, we should have done it more that way and in the future we would do it more that way. but we have seen no change. >> i will take it just because it is fun. in my position, i work with people from all political perspectives.
we have forums, convenience, the one-convene -- convenings. urged people to do better and encourage them -- we urge people to do better and encourage them. we do not do it through the courts. we try to use all different avenues to affect this kind of change. we build these broad coalitions and we try to be honest brokers where people, no matter where they sit on the political spectrum, they know they can come to us and the people we work with to get an honest perspective on what is going on.
people may have an ideological affinity for a dis affinity. it is working the political system and that is the best i can give as an answer. >> the obama coburn bill was a progressive bill. are the forces for good government and policy is going to be more rambunctious in the second term or not? >> the tech industry certainly will be. i am glad you pointed that out. the use of the word progressive. omb-watch did not endorse the
data act. crew endorse the data at, but so did grover norquist. business has to get involved because politicians listen to business. in the area i worked on, companies realize that once the government began publishing information, there are new business models and it will not favor any particular competitive because the same information will be out there for the smallest developer and the largest silicon valley player to use to pursue their own businesses. >> let me just say that we never drank the kool-aid. when have always been pretty aggressive about our views.
been pretty critical and we are always pushing for more. -- we have always been pretty critical and we are always pushing for more. we will work with allies where we have them. i have not been mentioned the initial archives and -- i have not mentioned the initial archives and records administration. they are committed to records preservation. they understand we have to find a way to preserve e-mails and their importance. e-mails are the interesting thing is i am always after. those are the smoking gun. the office of government information services has been another ally. they act as the ombudsmen for foia. good at mediating a lot of foia dispute .
we worked to shore them up and find them as many friends and supporters as we can. like anything, you try to be strategic. you look for friends and allies where you have them and you continue to fight. i make no apologies. we have been outspoken and we will continue to be outspoken. >> i would add two things before we go to the next question. i would be more than remiss not to mention darrell issa and members of the transparency caucus. they work together in ways that are surprising to push legislation that sometimes is revolutionary that can make a significant difference in the way government functions.
understanding where all of the money goes and the bill that has the basic idea that all reports sent via branch -- from the executive branch to congress have to be made public. no one is going to run for reelection on that bill. they will not even be able to pronounced it. there are other bills. i used to work in a department where i am per sauna -- persona nongrata. i would be remiss if i did not mention darrell issa and those who are members of the coalition. there are things we can do better or differently that are more exciting -- not to like
myself on fire and run down the capitol steps -- but other than that, we want to hear from our friends in the press and other organizations. we cannot engage in the campaign space because we are a c-3 is in. place to put pressure on folks and ask questions. if there are no other questions, i have a closing one for the panel. we have all of the questions the would-we have answered all the questions on transparency -- we have answered all the questions on transparency. we will wrap up. who is doing all of the innovative work in government? where is the real progress being made from what you are seeing? josh, can i take you to go
first? >> sure. not say which government, so i feel i can do this. you mentioned england before. there seems to be a vitality with whatever they are doing with the freedom of information act. i do not know it is the new found the experience for them, but the volume of material i have been coming across and british news accounts based on their foi processa is staggering. -- process is staggering. there are operations of foia at the state and local level.
i have seen pretty dramatic change. the other thing i would say is that some of the technology advances are a mixed bag. i do not want hudson to take offense. some of the loss of focus on the white house's parts is that sometimes they get wrapped up in gee whi spentz of collaborative government and -- gee whiz aspects of collaborative government and they lose sight of other aspects of disclosure that would be soluble for reporters. i think there is a happy medium that can be achieved. some of the stuff being done in terms of technology is exciting and gymnastics. the two things have to go hand in hand. there is no point in having a collaborative process if the
public does not have any idea of what is going on. what is going on does not have value if you cannot contribute to the decision making process. the administration push in the technology front. they let other aspects fall to the side. here is my inevitable pessimism coming up again. >> hudson? >> our specific focus is what data is being published. the gee whiz aspect should not be an excuse for not doing good government right now. if you want to know who is doing the most forward-looking work in open government data, i have a
different answer for you. i will talk only about the spending budget. there is no contest. it is the recovery and transparency board. it compiled the first database of spending that span all agencies. there are $60 million in grants either recovered or never paid out in the first place. there is no one i can point to who does not like that. i will not take up too much time with this answer. the recovery board will be eliminated at the end of september 2013 unless we pass legislation to extend it and build on its legislation. that is what we are trying to do. we hope that with events like this one we can get that done. >> my nomination would be epa.
it may not be the most innovative, but the fact that they took regulations and turn it into a portal for f requestsoia -- foia request is one of the most exciting things to come along. the request will be sent to the appropriate agency or agency component. it is easy to track the status of your request online. at the end, all the documents will be put in an online deposits -- online repository. i also give them a great deal of credibility and credit because they did it in the face of a lot of opposition within the executive branch, continually within the justice department that was threatened by this effort. they stuck with it and they got agencies to but dissipate in a
pilot program. other agencies are the-that other agencies to participate in -- they got other agencies to participate in a pilot program. >> we are seeing some innovation with respect to engage in the public in different ways. there is a we the people petition site that is not that exciting, but a little exciting. more exciting with be what is happening in finland where you do not simply petition be president. legislation is introduced to the fact of what you are petitioning for. the same thing for what is calling on in foia. efforts with epa are interesting. the efforts that tom harkin is
making as well. i will end on a down note. we have a chief information officer. it is a new office and they can do created things. we had a chief ethics officer and we had it for two years. once that office was bacon, -- was vacant, things slowed down. we need to think about the way our government is structured. only by doing backed an fighting -- that and for people to be in those spots can we do things
that were exciting in 2010. i would like to think all of our panelists. like to thank the judiciary committee for this from. with that, more information is available at transparency caucus.org. thank you. [applause] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2012] >> explores the history and literary culture of all but the, new york this weekend on book tv on c-span 2. next, your calls and comments on "washington journal."
eighth joint economic committee hears from analysts on the so- called fiscal cliff -- a economic committee hears from atlas on so-called fiscal cliff. -- analysts on colorado the cliff. >> it was constitutional for them to establish i.t. -- id. >> they talked about indiana. let me finish because you misrepresented what i said. >> when i hear these accusations that black people, voter i longd is disproportionately affect minorities, -- voter id
laws disproportionately affect minorities. if whites voters can it -- get people,u telling black that they are less than? we always have to make special -- there has to be a specialnes when we deals with minorities because they are too feeble mind. when you treat people like the victims, i do not think they want to aspire. >> crystal wright tonight at 8 ." c-span's "q & a today, the latest on the